"Welcome to St. Margaret," students announced eagerly as they held open the doors of St. Margaret Middle School to Archbishop William Lori on Tuesday.
It was part of Catholic Schools Week and Sean Caine, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, noted the archbishop's choice to visit St. Margaret and John Carroll was especially meaningful. Caine said the latest Census numbers show Harford now has the most Catholics of any jurisdiction in the archdiocese.
"Certainly Harford County is a priority," Caine said, noting "huge parishes" like St. Ignatius in Hickory and St. Margaret.
The archbishop was spending the day at the 15-year-old St. Mary Magdalen Mission Center, along with St. Margaret Elementary School and The John Carroll School in Bel Air.
As far as how to meet their spiritual needs, educational needs and provide other services, "that is a question that the archdiocese continues to ask," he said.
"With the influx of people because of the BRAC program, we expect that will only continue to grow," he said. "This campus is a great example."
The county's status is not exactly a surprise, as Harford's growth "has certainly been consistent over the last several decades," he said. "It mirrors a demographic change."
Lori spent time walking through St. Margaret's classrooms, meeting plenty of staff members as well as students, who explained different projects they were working on.
He took part in a luncheon with guests, including members of various religious orders and priests before speaking to middle-school students about vocations.
"Every new generation comes up and makes it new again," Lori said about the church, alluding to the Ravens game before telling students they need to have a "game plan" for their faith.
Staff members and students seemed excited to have the archbishop at their school.
"We are just really excited that everybody showed up," admissions director Cecilia Pleiss said, adding people were "honored" and glad that he came up.
One of the eager students was Elizabeth Baummer, a seventh grader, who was also covering the event as a student reporter.
"I think it's very exciting to have such a special guest here just because it's a chance for us to learn more about our vocation," she said. "You get to hear about all these different things you can do."